Shamanism – Dangers and Degradations

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2005
Shamanism is one of the most dangerous and potentially consequential of modern New Age practices. Anyone who reads the standard works on shamanism will soon discover the potentially savage hazards of such a path.

Shamanism – Dangers and Degradations

Shamanism is one of the most dangerous and potentially consequential of modern New Age practices. Anyone who reads the standard works on shaman­ism, such as those of perhaps the world’s leading authority on the subject, Mircea Eliade,[1] or those of I. M. Lewis[2] and Joan Halifax,[3] or the books of popu­larizers like “white” shamans, Michael Harner,[4] Lynn Andrews,[5] and Carlos Castaneda[6] will soon discover the potentially savage hazards of such a path. Even many anthropologists who have investigated shamanism “scientifically” have paid a costly price in the process.[7] Botanists, herbalists, and medical doc­tors likewise.

Horrors surrounding shaman initiations are common:

Tales of frightening initiations are not unusual… with visions of physical dismemberment and reconstruction being quite common….
The Salish shamanic initiation includes first a period of torture and deprivation: being clubbed, bitten, thrown about, immobilized, blindfolded, teased, starved. When the initiate “gets his [shamanic] song straight,” or the slate that is the mind is wiped clean, the guardian spirit or power animal appears [to possess the shaman].[8]
[Rinalik’s] own initiation had been severe; she was hung up to some tent poles planted in the snow and left there for five days. It was midwinter, with intense cold and frequent blizzards, but she did not feel the cold, for the spirits protected her. When the five days were at an end, she was taken down and carried into the house, and Igjugarjuk was invited to shoot her, in order that she might attain to intimacy with the supernatural by visions of death…. Igjugarjuk asserted that he had shot her through the heart…. [Another student of Igjugarjuk, Aggjartoq] actually stood on the bottom of the lake with his head under water. He was left in this position for five days and when at last they hauled him up again, his clothes showed no sign of having been in the water at all and he himself had become a great wizard, having overcome death.[9]

Shamans also usually undergo terrifying symbolic experiences of death, while experiencing mystical initiation during spirit-flights.

The often terrifying descent by the shaman initiate into the underworld of suffering and death may be represented [to him] by figurative dismemberment, disposal of all bodily fluids, scraping of the flesh from the bones, and removal of the eyes. Once the novice has been reduced to a skeleton and the bones cleansed and purified, the flesh may be distributed among the spirits of the various diseases that afflict those in the human community.[10]

Through such means the shaman is said to not only relinquish his fear of death but to gain the secrets to healing his fellow tribe members.

Other shamans have real-world experiences of being horribly maimed in various accidents as part of their initiation. Others are poisoned with snake venom or other substances. Some experience diseases such as smallpox, and a few report miraculous phenomena such as a ball of fire that comes down from heaven and strikes them senseless.[11] “Kundalini” arousal is also not infrequent. Some American shamans specialize in helping initiates deal with what is appar­ently shamanically induced kundalini difficulties, including psychoses.[12]

Because so many people are turning to shamanism, we think that stressing the dangers of this practice will help them reconsider their commitment and hinder the merely curious from future involvement. Suffice it to say that shaman­ism often involves the shaman in tremendous personal suffering and pain (magi­cally, he often “dies” in the most horrible of torments), and that it often involves the shaman in demon possession, insanity, sexual perversion, and so on.[13] Why anyone would consider shamanism or shamanistic initiation as healthful, spiritual or otherwise, is difficult to imagine.

Amorality

Obviously shamanism lacks moral standards. It is characteristically amoral, using the spirits for either good or evil purposes. As shamanistic counselor Natasha Frazier, director of Transformative Arts Institute points out,

There are four ways to use shamanic power—for healing, for manipulation, for acquisition and for malevolent action…. Manipulatory shamanism is [sic] to do with manipulating the environment for personal gain and without regard for the consequences. Malevolent shamanism is tied up with intentionally causing injury, illness or death and can be applied to people, places and the environment.[14]

In other words, the shaman is one who acquires knowledge of both good and evil spirits, often attempting either to use both or to bring both into “harmony”.[15] The powerful Native American shaman, “Thunder Cloud,” for example, was known as both “a great healer and adept poisoner”.[16] Like witches, some sha­mans, of course, claim to concentrate on “good” forces, while others deliberately use evil powers. Yet it is the amoral perspective in general that is part of what makes shamanism per se evil, regardless of any practitioner’s claim to use shamanism benevolently. In the end, the “good” and evil spirits and forces cannot logically be separated, and therefore all shamans must utilize a source of power that is as comfortable being used for evil purposes as allegedly for good ones.

In shaman training, “the forces of both light and dark [are] summoned”,[17] and the very process of accepting shamanic power also involves “accepting the ancient darkness”.[18] As one initiate recalled:

Although I sat in the cave of light, my experience that night was very dark. At times I felt myself to be a channel through which all the destructive and entropic forces of the universe were flowing. [My shaman later] explained that the darker forces… in that evening’s work were seeking to restore balance in the circle, making themselves apparent to those able to perceive them…. While most of the group focused on the light… experiencing radiant visions of power animals or guides, three of us struggled with darkness. In this way the balance of the circle was maintained.[19]

Of course, any tradition, spirit, or power that is equally at home employing evil can never logically be considered good. To accept or employ evil as a necessity to supposedly “balance” the occult circle or spiritual world is not wise.

Sexual Immorality

As an illustration of sexual perversion, many shamans become androgynous, homosexual, or lesbian at the insistence of their spirit guides. In an age of world­wide AIDS, can anybody consider this sound advice? As in forms of monistic Hinduism, the rationale is allegedly to unify the “illusion” of opposites (good with evil, male with female, dark with light). But the result is perversion or even sui­cide. As the following illustration reveals, the source behind such degradation is the spirit world:

The dissolution of contraries—life and death, light and dark, male and female—and reconstitution of the fractured forms is one of the most consistent impulses in the initiation and transformation process as experienced by the shaman…. During mysteries of initiation such as those of shamanic election, androgyny can appear at two very significant moments in this sacred continuum: at its inception and at its termination…. Among Siberian peoples, androgynous shamans appear to be unusually prevalent. … The spirit ally, or ke’let, demands that the young man become a “soft man being.” Many instances of suicide among adolescent shamans occurred as a result of their refusal to meet this requirement. Nonetheless, most neophytes complied in spite of their profound social and psychological ambivalence. The transformation process is heralded by the spirits guiding the young man to braid his hair like a woman’s. Next, the spirits, through dreams, prescribe women’s clothing for the young man…. The third stage of this initiation entails a more total feminization of the male shaman. The youth who is undergoing the process relinquishes his former male behaviors and activities and adopts the female role…. His spirits are guiding and teaching him the woman’s way. His mode of speech changes as well as his behavior, and on certain occasions, so does his body…. Even his physical character changes…. Generally speaking, he becomes a woman with the appearance of a man…. The “soft man” comes to experience himself sexually as a female. With the help of his spirit allies, he is able to attract the attention of eligible men, one of whom he chooses to be his husband. The two marry and live as a man and wife, often until death, performing their appropriate social and sexual roles.[20]

In similar fashion, female shamans may become lesbians.[21] We also find the horrible experiences of the demonic incubi and succubae or sex with male and female demons.[22]

Sexual perversions occur because the shaman is controlled by evil spirits from beginning to end.

The initial experience of possession, particularly, is often a disturbing, even traumatic experience…. Where the successor shows reluctance in assuming his onerous duties, the spirits remind him forcefully of his obligations by badgering him with trials and tribulations until he acknowledges defeat and accepts their insistent prodding.[23]

Indeed, I. M. Lewis’s description of a particular amoral class of spirits that shamans may associate with is actually descriptive of shamanic spirit guides in general.

It is I believe of the greatest interest and importance that these spirits are typically considered to be amoral; they have no direct moral significance. Full of spite and malice though they are, they are believed to strike entirely capriciously and without any grounds which can be referred to the moral character or conduct of their victim.[24]

Once inside their host, the spirits have the capacity to produce either a “divine” ecstasy or horrible, demonic torment. Perhaps only the occasional spiritual ec­stasy of the shaman can explain the willingness of some to enter such a horrible profession.[25] Here, the spirits will entice their hosts with intense mystical joy, which may make their infliction of torture more acceptable. Nevertheless, the spirits are capricious:

…These maligned pathogenic spirits are regarded as being extremely captious and capricious. They strike without rhyme or reason; or at least without any substantial cause which can be referred to social conduct. They are not concerned with man’s behavior to man. They have no interest in defending the moral code of society…. [T]hey are always on the look-out for a convenient excuse to harass their victims, and they are inordinately sensitive to human encroachment. To step on one inadvertently, or otherwise unwittingly annoy it, is sufficient to so inflame the spirit’s wrath that it attacks at once, possessing its trespasser, and making him ill or causing him misfortune.
… They show a special predilection for the weak and downtrodden,… indeed for all those whose circumstances are already so reduced as to make this additional burden seem a final, crushing, injustice.[26]

Notes

  1. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972); Mircea Eliade, From Medicine Men to Muhammad (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).
  2. I. M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion: An Anthropological Study of Spirit Possession and Shamanism (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1975).
  3. Joan Halifax, Shamanic Voices (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1979).
  4. Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman: A Guide to Power and Healing (New York: Bantam, 1986).
  5. Lynn Andrews books include : Jaguar Woman and Medicine Woman (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1986); Star Woman (New York: Warner, 1986).
  6. Carlos Castaneda’s books include : The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge; A Separate Reality; Journey to Ixtlan; Tales of Power (New York: Simon and Schuster/Touch­stone).
  7. e.g., Larry G. Peters, “An Experiential Study of Nepalese Shamanism,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 13, no. 1, 1981, pp. 1-16.
  8. Jeanne Archterberg, Imagery in Healing: Shamanism and Modern Medicine (Boston, MA: New Science Library/Shambhala, 1985), p. 22.
  9. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, pp. 9-10.
  10. Ibid., p. 12.
  11. Ibid., p. 13.
  12. Natasha Frazier, “A Model of Contemporary Shamanism,” Shaman’s Drum, Fall 1985, pp. 40-41, Natasha Frazier, “Shamanic Survival Skills,” Shaman’s Drum, Summer, 1985, p. 37.
  13. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, pp. 7-27.
  14. Frazier, “Shamanic Survival Skills,” p. 37.
  15. Albert Villoldo, “A Journey of Initiation of Don Edwardo Calderon,” Shaman’s Drum, Fall 1985, p. 20.
  16. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, p. 175.
  17. Villoldo, p. 22.
  18. Debra Carroll, “Dancing on the Sword’s Edge,” Shaman’s Drum, Fall 1985, p. 27.
  19. Ibid., pp. 28-29.
  20. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, pp. 23-24.
  21. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, p. 25.
  22. Eliade, Shamanism, p. 80; cf. Kurt Koch, Christian Counselling and Occultism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publishers, pp. 162-164.
  23. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, p. 66.
  24. Ibid., p. 31.
  25. Halifax, Shamanic Voices, pp. 31-32; Eliade, Shamanism, pp. 108-109, 221.
  26. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, pp. 71-72.

12 Comments

  1. From UK on October 13, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Dear John

    Your article Is to the POINT

    IRANIAN LESBIANS , DESPERATE SODS as they are go about FORCING themselves on others in this way and RAPING WOMEN and trying to Force others to become LESBIANS ..

    IRANIAN LESBIANS are the most SADISTIC , SICKEST , Ugliest GERMS out there and in fact they are as Cruel and Pervert as any NAZI /

    Time to Cover this aspect with more Articles.

    BEWARE of IRANIANS and LESBIANs and SHAMANISM is used to HARM others at all times.

  2. Moses on November 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    This article is utter trash. It’s as if you’re trying to demonize another faith in order to make your tattered God seem infallible. Shamanism ( the very practice) has been around before your God even began to be worshipped. In fact your God could be my god and you’re just worshipping in a different way. That’s the beauty of religion, you don’t know anything about it. Old shamanism has been around for thousands of years and it’s important that you know that everything you said is a case by case basis. There are different cultures with different beliefs and rules.

    • Andrè M. Pietroschek on February 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      For someone who pretends to be wise you are quick to judge those of a different opinion. Rape, Murder, Torture, and War have been around for thousands of years, too. Does that make them harmless, flawless, and best left in the hand of whoever decides to be qualified? No.

      One look at the sources listed and Dr. John Weldon seems to have invested more time into research than most self-declared shamans. Yes, Halifax is too often on that list to cover a broad spectrum, like Asatru, Native American, or Tibetan Shamanism.

      And doesn’t our host actually just attempt to protect his own flock, like one of those biblical shepherds who are a role model of his chosen religion? If you find it so hard to respect elders, even with the mistakes and outdated views to be expected, then the seed of arrogance IS already gnawing away on your sanity and prudence.

  3. Andrè M. Pietroschek on February 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    “We cannot remind our readers too often that the Great Initiator comes in the Silence to the higher consciousness, and is never a human being, however supernatural and secluded. All that can be
    done by the Servants of the Masters on the physical plane is the preparation of the candidate.” Quote from → Dion Fortune – The Training and Work of an Initiate.

    While it is a matter of faith to assume that the ‘Great Initiator’ can actually only be God, some people fail to get it.

    Shamanism has been twisted away from the faithful, just like most occult teachings, from century old safeguards to the wishful thinking of the drug-abusing and the mentally sick. The Healer’s Path is now actually most about spreading the, quite physical, diseases and delusions of sacred prowess.

    The Germans have 2 advantages here. We have police forces who long evidenced Nazi-Extremists playing gray eminences in those scenes of pagans and self-declared satanists. Oh, and we ain’t that afraid to murder in the name of God.

    I wonder, if one can really be a Christian, if ones deeds all come down to a kind of ‘Eat that Apple, Eve!’. The only creature which can afford to lean back and do nothing while insane evil fights with every dirty trick it can muster is God, for only God is immortal and beyond all pain. Still most Christians work extra hard to open those gates of their own Troy that Satan couldn’t have it any easier on Earth.

    Bearded Devils cannot be trusted, and neither can their violent-prone mortal agents be defeated by prayers and chorus alone! True Faith is NEVER about neglecting to do what has to be done!

  4. Alo on July 15, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    This article is bs. One must embrace the dark & light to fully evolve. Shamanism is better for us that what our government allows. A shaman is someone who’s healed themselves. Most “new” age Shamanism isn’t the same as in the indigenous since. Now you can take a class online and become a shaman. Which is bs like this article.

  5. Andrew Marmion on July 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I am training as a shaman and am Christian. The reason I state this is because being a shaman is ultimately spiritual in nature and is considered a healer and teacher by indigenous people throughout the world. Why can’t a Christian be a shaman? The sound spiritual principles are the same if used for good. I found it easy to incorporate into my Christian life.

    I think Dr. John’s article is blinkered and lacks enough research and understanding of shamanism for me to discount. The shaman who is teaching me has been trained for years in several cultural settings especially by the Native Americans and Mexican Indians. I trust him more than some ministers of the Gospel and will continue with my training.

    • John on December 4, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      We are to lift up Christ…do shamans pray to Christ or lift him up? Or do they lift up themselves. Do they identify who they pray to? Look at Acts19:13-16 …warning about not truly doing these things in Christ’s name but just using his name, even the demons were not affraid

  6. Dave J. on November 3, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Our daughter says her mother and I are negitive forces on her. We don’t get it she beleavs in this type of healing been to s. america last 2 winters.She partook in healing things. told us her back pain is from a bad thing that happend in her life I never had a lot but gave my 3 boys and my youngest the best I could. Its Like She’s brain washed?

  7. Jen on November 22, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    This article is highly ignorant and horribly narrow minded. Get your facts straight.

  8. Bodhi René on July 29, 2017 at 11:17 am

    To each their own. You will learn soon enough.

  9. Sam on May 15, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    bwahahahahahhahhahahahahahahaaa … dude, you seriously need to take a trip and get over yourself. Your article is full of nit-picked sentences taken from various sources butchered and intertwined into paragraph form with out using proper context. You obviously have ZERO understanding of what a Shaman is, or the nature of Shamanic practices but do go on with your fear fest. It’s quite amusing to some of us.

  10. Celestia on May 28, 2019 at 2:13 am

    Shamanism is the oldest known religious and medicinal practice mankind has. Every reference you make of dismemberment and spirit possession is all in an altered meditative state or to heal another– I have read those passages, as well. You left out the situational use of each. All men/women have the capacity of evil – such as doctors who use their degree to misinform clients for their own benefit or financial gain (which is unethical and can be seen as malpractice). So targeting Shamans who strongly uphold the Karmic Law (do unto others as they would do unto you), as malicious users of their abilities seems unreasonable considering they live by the Hippocratic oath as well. All of the references you make with citations come from texts dating back hundreds of thousands of years ago and do not accurately depict the current practices of modern shamans. Also, once again I point out that we all (as humans) vary person to person; there are good doctors and unethical ones, there are charity shamans and ones who charge, there are con-artists and professionals. You are making a very bold generalization for the many practicing healers out there. It would be as if I said, “Every Doctor who used his personal opinion and manipulated facts to scare clients into only booking with him was selfish, unethical and is bordering on Malpractice”. I mean, that would include so many Doctors… yourself included. It might make you feel a little less likely to generalize a group of people.

    I am disheartened that a man who claims to be one of logic, someone with a so-called doctorate, would be so irresponsible in his representation of an “informed” recommendation. If your doctorate is real, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were unethical in your own practice (the very thing you claim Shamans do), it sounds as if you might be having your own opinions and prejudices cloud your judgement of the care of others. I won’t even go into the religious or accusatory positions you take at the middle to end of your argument–as those do not even warrant a response for how absurd they truly are and I do not approve fear mongering tactics. I would, however, fear for the health and safety of anyone being advised by your very jaded and clouded mind. As someone, who has worked with Shamans, I can honestly say, every single one has respected my doctor’s recommendations and some even had doctorates and degrees of their own. What I liked the best when under the care of a Shaman was the neutral and flexible perspective they took. Not only did she work with my current care, but she supported my spiritual beliefs– working with my Angels to support my healing. It took less than a year to fully cure my ailments, which I ended up choosing to ween off of the medications my doctor had prescribed. Never once did she speak ill of a doctor or treatment and always worked towards my highest self interest, even at her own financial expense. I even had a Shaman recommend me to other health care professionals because it was in my best interest, even though I’m sure she could have resolved it herself. It’s unfortunate I have yet to meet a Doctor or Health Professional who has the same values or ethics she did. What a humble, loving and divine being.

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